How Can I Trust In God When I’m Seriously Sick Or Injured?

pain and suffering Christian

Oresto, 4, with his father in the special unit for pediatric surgery run by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) outside Port-au-Prince’s general hospital. He had his hand amputated the night before.

What A Man Suffering From Disease Once Said

I wish I was never born.

I’ve lost all my strength, and my disease has reduced me to skin and bones. I’m estranged from my friends and relatives. My breath is offensive to my wife. Loathsome, that’s what I am. People find me loathsome.

My cries pour out like water. I shout for help, but there is no answer. God has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy.

I wish He would just crush me. I wish He would cut me off from the land of the living. I wish I were dead. (Job paraphrased. See Job 3:11, Job chapter 19Job 3:24Job 6:8-9)

Illness And A Crushed Spirit

Before his illness Job was intimate with God and his life reflected that relationship. He was the kind of guy who smiled often. He had the kind of face that lit up a room. He was the kind of guy who loved to help the underdog: orphans, widows, the lame, the blind, and the poor. He liked to rescue the weak from wicked people who would take advantage of their weakness: the Bible says he “broke the jaws” of such wicked men. Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. And people loved him for it. He was dynamic, he was charismatic, he was popular. And his words were wise, and beautiful, and encouraging: people waited for his words like people waited for the spring rain. He held the honor and respect of the people in his community. And he was rich. (Job 1:1-5, Job 29)

Then, along with other tragedies, his disease came. It was a disease that isolated him from his family and friends. It was a disease that caused him to become emaciated. It was a disease that covered him with painful boils from head to toe.

It was a disease that made him loathsome to the same people who used to love him.

And his countenance changed. This great man of God didn’t smile like he used to. His face didn’t shine like it used to. And his words changed. He said things, depressing negative things. Things he thought he would never say. He said he wished he were dead. He said he wished God would kill him. He said he wished he were never born. He said God was against him.

“The body and soul live so close together that they catch each other’s diseases,” C. S. Lewis said.

Job’s spirit was crushed: because of his disease.

What Job Did When Illness Crushed His Spirit

What Job did, when he found his spirit crushed by his disease, and other tragedies, was to completely abandon himself to God. He said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15) As bad as it is, Job said, whatever God decides to allow in my life, even if He decides to slay me, I’ll trust Him. When the disease came he trusted God, with as much abandon as he could muster.

And he also hoped. He hoped in God. As bad as it was, he held out hope. He said,  “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives…” (Job 19:25) Job saw God as his redeemer. Job saw God as the solution to his illness. God was where his hope rested.

Where Can I Find Trust And Hope In God?

I’m sure it wasn’t easy but in the midst of his illness Job found a way to hope and trust in God. Here you’ll find three things to help you hope and trust in God.

1) God’s ways are higher.

If you really think about it, it doesn’t make sense that God would always make sense, to us. It doesn’t make sense that we mere mortals would always be able to make sense of what God does in our lives. Oresto, the four year old boy in the photo at the top of this post, survived the earthquake in Haiti, in part, because his hand was amputated. This photo was taken the day after the surgery. Look at Oresto’s face. What do you think? Does Oresto understand why his hand had to be amputated?

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” God asks Job and his friends. Who created the oceans? Who created the multiplied trillions of snowflakes, every one of which is unique? Who created hail? Who created lightning? Who created rain? Who makes seeds sprout? Who created the animals of the ocean, earth, and sky: whales, and lions, and raptors? Who created the constellations in outer space? Who created the billion plus galaxies? Who made the “dying star throw its cosmic tantrum” called the Helix Nebula? (see Job chapters 38-41, CalTech.edu: No two snowflakes alike, nasa.gov: Helix Nebula)

Just as four year old Oresto doesn’t understand everything his surgeon does, we have to realize, this side of heaven, we’re never going to understand everything about a God like that. After all, at least Oresto and his surgeon are both human. The gap between the God who created the universe and all that’s in it, and you and I, is infinitely greater than the gap between a child and a surgeon. God knows best, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

Job understood this to some degree, even before God addressed him directly. He spoke about it in Job 12:13-25.

2) God Told Us Everything Is For Our Good

God tells us He’s for us, and that He uses everything for our good. One of the most well known verses where we see this is in Romans 8:28.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

But we also see it in the lives of God’s men and women in the Bible. The life of Joseph is one of the best examples. We see him betrayed by his family, then betrayed by his master’s wife, then tossed into a dungeon and forgotten. But God used all of it to save multiplied thousands from starvation. (Genesis chapters 37-50)

God told us he uses everything for our good, even our illnesses and injuries. And He gives us examples in His scriptures. We can rest in those words and examples. We can hope in those words and examples. And we can trust in those words and examples.

3) God Proved His Love For Us

Finally, we can know with complete certainty that God loves us. We know because He gave up His own son to provide a way for you and I to live with Him in heaven. His son Jesus did nothing but good while he was here. Like Job he liked to rescue the weak from the wicked. But because he was greater than Job, he healed people, he fed multitudes, he revealed God to people. He loved people, and for awhile, the people loved him. Jesus was nothing but good, yet the religious authorities hated him because he won over the hearts of the people. His close friend betrayed him. He was mocked by the authorities and ultimately rejected by men. He was beaten and scourged to the point where his back looked like hamburger. And then he was nailed to a cross, where he died, for you, and for me.

I could never do that. I could never give up one of my sons, to go through that. Not for your life or for anyone else’s.

But God did.

So we know. We know without a doubt that He loves us. If He did that for us, we can endure illness for Him, knowing that He’ll only do what’s best for us, even if it costs Him His only son.

And even if we don’t understand it.

References:

Bible Gateway

CalTech.edu, No two snowflakes alike

Nasa.gov

Tim Keller has an excellent teaching on what the Bible says about the causes of a crushed spirit. You can listen to it here: The Wounded Spirit (HT to my friend Ryan Sample, pastor of Lakeside Family Church, for recommending this teaching.)

Skip Heitzig, Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012

Jim Davis, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), Leafwood, 2014

Steve Mays, Overwhelmed by God, Regal Books, 2014

Image via Save the Children – Creative Commons

NOTES:

At least one scientist says, that among the smaller crystals, some snowflakes may be the same. (see livescience.com, Maybe Two Snowflakes are Alike) But even this guy says “It is probably safe to say that the possible number of snow crystal shapes exceeds the estimated number of atoms in the known universe.”

A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy And What Happened Next (And what causes a crushed spirit)

Depression Christian

A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy

Elijah was coming off three amazing and miraculous events in his life. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit Elijah just “won” a showdown with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah. “…you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God,” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and to the crowd of Israelites assembled there near the sacrificial altar.

The other prophets did everything imaginable including cutting themselves with swords and lances until blood gushed from them. But it was all to no avail. There was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Then Elijah poured water onto his sacrifice, twice. Then he prayed for God to let it be known that He is God in Israel. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and even the dust around it. And when they saw it all the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” And after that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slain.

Then Elijah prayed for rain, because there had been a great drought in Israel up until that time. He prayed with fervency and intensity. He prayed seven times. And the rain came.

Then the Bible says, “…the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” And Ahab was in a chariot at the time.

Good things are happening to Elijah. God is doing amazing things through Elijah. Through him the Lord is turning the people away from false religions and turning their hearts back toward the true and living God. Through Elijah God is providing rain to a people plagued by drought. (1 Kings Chapter 18)

But look what happens next. Continue reading

Suffering (And How Paul Never Prayed For The Persecution To Go Away)

Pain Suffering Christian

It’s What’s Inside

San Francisco Giants Pitcher Dave Dravecky

Dave Dravecky pitched for the San Francisco Giants until a cancerous desmoid tumor in his pitching arm required surgery. They removed half of his deltoid muscle and froze his humerus bone to try to kill all the cancer cells. On August 10 in 1989, after a long and grueling period of rehab, he came back to the majors and pitched eight innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched brilliantly and he won 4 to 3. After the game he told the media, “It’s a miracle.” But just five days later, in the sixth inning against Montreal, during his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped in two. The sound of it was so loud it could be heard throughout the stadium.

The cancer was back. And he not only lost his career as a baseball player but he lost his arm. When he was interviewed about it he said this:

“Nobody ever promised that life is going to be fair. Everybody’s going to have adversity. The only way to handle it is to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on the Lord.”

After all that pain and toil and work and sweat and grief, after all that Dravecky failed. Yet look how he responded. How is that possible? How could anyone respond to that kind of adversity that way?

What’s Inside

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)

A wounded spirit, as I understand it in the Bible, occurs when a person’s passion for life is squashed (the English Standard Version actually uses the word crushed). A depressed person could be an example of this. A suicidal person would be at the extreme end of this spectrum. And here in Proverbs 18 we see one of many places in the Bible where God’s perspective on suffering is different than the typical understanding of most Americans and many others throughout the world. We think our happiness is mostly dependent on our circumstances. If I have the right job, if I have the right woman, if I get the promotion, if I’m healthy, if I can make enough money, then… I’ll be happy.

But God says, Continue reading

A Tale Of 2 Sufferings (How Joseph’s dad failed it, and how Joseph nailed it.)

pain suffering Christian

Alex at 7,500 ft. (2,285 m..) above sea level. (3,500 ft. above ground level)

A Tale Of Two Sufferings

I never saw this perspective before, but have you ever considered the difference between how Jacob handled his suffering, as compared to how his son Joseph handled what was arguably even worse suffering? I heard this last Sunday from a 20-something.

Joseph Betrayed

So Joseph’s seventeen, and he has it made. He’s his father’s favorite. He lives in a wealthy family. And he is given special revelation from God in the form of dreams, dreams of his brothers bowing down to him. But without warning, Continue reading

The Doctor Who Lost His Pain (And The Power Found From Suffering)

Pain and Suffering ChristianA Doctor Who Lost His Pain

Paul Brand had just arrived home in London after a long train ride from India where he treated patients in a leper colony. In his own words, this is his story:

I pulled off my shoes to prepare for bed, and as I did a terrible awareness hit me with the force of a wrecking ball, I had no feeling in half my foot. I sank into a chair my mind whirling, “Perhaps it’s an illusion.” I closed my eyes and pressed against my heel with the tip of a ballpoint pen. Nothing. No sensation of touch whatsoever. A dread fear worse than any nausea seized my stomach. Had it finally happened?

Every leprosy worker recognizes that insensitivity to pain is one of the disease’s first symptoms. Had I just made the wretched leap from leprosy doctor, to leprosy patient? I stood up stiffly and shifted back and forth on my unfeeling foot, then I rummaged in my suitcase for a sewing needle and sat down again. I pricked a small patch of skin below my ankle. No pain. I jabbed the needle deeper, probing for a reflex but there was none. A dark speck of blood oozed out of the whole I just made. I put my face between my hands and shuddered, longing for pain that would not come. I suppose I always feared that moment. In the early days of working with leprosy patients every time I took a bath I made a visual check for skin patches. Most leprosy workers did.

Rest did not come to me that night. I lay fully clothed on my bed, except for shoes and socks, perspiring and breathing heavily. “Welcome to the society of the accursed,” I thought. I knew all too well what to expect. My office files were filled with diagrams charting the body’s gradual march toward numbness. Ordinary pleasures in life would slip away: petting a dog, running a hand across silk, holding a child. Soon all sensations would feel alike: dead.

At last dawn came and I arose unrested and full of despair. I stared in the mirror at my unshaven face checking for patches. During the night the clinician inside of me had taken over. “I mustn’t panic,” I thought. Since I knew more about this disease than the average doctor in London it was up to me to determine a course of treatment. First I must map out the affected area of insensitivity and get some sense of how far the disease has progressed.

I sat down, took a deep breath, and jabbed the point of that sewing needle into my heel: and I yelped. Never have I felt a sensation as delicious as that live electric jolt of pain. I laughed aloud at my foolishness. Of course it all made perfect sense. As I sat hunched in that train, my body too weak for the usual restless motion that redistributes weight and pressure, I had cut off blood supply to the main branch of the sciatic nerve in my leg, causing a temporary numbness.

“Temporary,” I thought.

Overnight that nerve had renewed itself and was now faithfully spitting out messages of pain and touch and cold and heat. There was no leprosy, only a weary traveler made neurotic by illness and fatigue.

That single sleepless night became for me a defining moment. The next morning when I had learned that my foot had come back to life, I knew I had crossed a chasm back to normal life.

And I breathed a prayer, “Thank God for pain.”

 

The Value Of Pain

You know, pain has value. Sure it’s miserable in the short term, but ultimately there’s great power in pain and suffering, and I’m not alone in thinking that.

Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best seller The Purpose Driven Life, recently lost his 27 year old son Matthew to suicide. But even before that happened Warren wouldn’t Continue reading

After A 13 Year Old Girl Was Murdered, This Is What Her Parents Did

Pain Suffering Christian

Pain

Pain and Suffering

We’ve been exploring the topic of pain and suffering and one of the worst kinds of pain and suffering is the kind caused by the loss of a child. The following is a quote from Wilma Derkson who lost her daughter at the age of 13. (You can learn more about the Derksens and their remarkable response to their daughter’s murder in this TED Talk video: TEDxManitoba – Wilma Derksen: When Polarity in Forgiveness Happens)

Losing A Child

For six and a half weeks we didn’t know what had happened to Candace. She just disappeared into thin air.  But everyone knows that when a 13-year-old girl goes missing then something is terribly wrong.  She was a child in a woman’s body, that moment of vulnerability when one minute they’re a child and the next a woman.

Eventually Candace’s body was found in a shack not far from our home – her hands and feet had been tied. Someone had forced her there but we lived with the mystery of not knowing who had done this for the next 22 years.

The day her body was found all our friends came to visit bringing warm food with them. There was so much love in the house that it helped us get through.  Then at around 10.30 that evening, when most people had left, there was a knock on the door and this stranger stood there. He told us, “I’m the parent of a murdered child too.” He was saying we now belonged to an exclusive club that no one wants to belong to. We invited him to the kitchen table and for the next two hours he told us in vivid detail everything he’d lost – his health, his relationships, his concentration, his ability to work. He’d even lost all memory of his daughter because now he could only think of the murder, the trauma and the hate that followed. –Wilma Derksen

Losing 10 Children Continue reading

Robin Williams and Suicide

Robin Williams SuicideThe Waves That Batter and Break

A friend posted this on Facebook the day Robin Williams died:

I don’t struggle with depression.

Not yet anyway.

I might someday.

My father did. Robin Williams did. I’m sure a lot of people you know do too, or have.

But I have seen it close up, and I have seen the way it comes in like waves, and I have seen it batter and break.

Last Monday night I drove home from Portland where I had a great visit with my sons Gabe and Nathaniel, and their families over the weekend. Kathy couldn’t go because of work. When I walked in the door one of the first things she said to me was,

“You heard that Robin Williams died didn’t you?”

Wow. No. I hadn’t. It was a shock. I heard that he struggled with depression (as well as alcohol and cocaine addiction). But even so, it caught me off guard.

The Great Clown Pagliacci

Also on the day Robin Williams died, someone on Reddit shared a page from the Watchmen comic that had this dialogue: Continue reading

An Open Letter To Those In Pain and Suffering

Christian pain and suffering

Dear Friend In Pain,

I feel so sad and so sorry about what you’re going through right now. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I can guarantee you that what I’m sharing in this letter won’t take the pain away. And I want you to feel perfectly free not to read it. If you don’t I won’t take the least bit of offence. I only want to share with you what made the biggest difference for me when I went through my time of pain. Continue reading

A Conversation About God With A 3 Year Old

conversations about GodOn the way to get my pickup tested at the local vehicle emissions station today, my 3 year old grandson Andrew commented, “It’s a beautiful day Grandpa.”

“Yes it is, God blessed us with this day,” I said.

“Where is God?” Andrew asked.

I thought to myself, “Wow, what a deep question for a 3 year old, this kid is smart.” Then I said, “God is in heaven, and He’s everywhere. He’s invisible. He blessed us with this day, and the clouds, and the sun, and the sky, and the trees.”

“Is God in our hearts?” he asked.

“Man,” I thought to myself, “this kid is really smart. Maybe he’ll be the next Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” I said, “God also came as a man, and he died for us, because you and I and everybody does things that are wrong sometimes, so the man who came from God died to pay for those wrong things we do, so we can be with God in heaven.”

“Is God in my heartbeat?”

Now I’m thinking, “Wow, ‘God in my heartbeat,’ that’s poetic, what an insight, maybe I’m talking to the next Billy Graham!”

My answer, “He will live in your heart, if you ask Him to.”

Grandson, “Grandpa?”

Me, “Yes?”

Grandson: “My leg is a part of a robot.”

Sigh.